8 Ways Power BI Falls Short – Or Not (Tableau Series Part 3)

In today’s post, we will go over Tableau’s last four claims against Power BI (as was published by Tableau here), and we will demystify them. If you missed the last episode, go here, to learn the first 4 Ways Power BI Falls Short – Or Not. If you are an avid Tableau user, and are not sure if it’s time to extend your BI reach, this series is especially for you.

Tableau's 8 Ways Power BI Falls Short
Tableau’s 8 Ways Power BI Falls Short

Background

This is part 3 of a new series for Tableau pros, or BI teams, who consider extending their BI portfolio, and start their Power BI journey. For part 1 go here. For part 2 go here

Disclaimer: This isn’t going to be a typical comparison between two different solutions. I am not objective here. In a different lifetime, I might have become a great advocate for the other solution. After all, it has great visualizations, and a fantastic community of professionals and fans. You might also argue (especially if you are a fan of the other product), that I have no real claim to share my thoughts here. After all, I have never used the other product.

Nevertheless, if you are a fan of the other solution (and by now may be a bit angry that this blog post was shared with you, by someone from the other side), I think you should read this blog post, and the series which will follow. I am not going to convince you to stop using the other product. But it’s time for you to start considering using this new emerging product. In the next 10 years, it will conquer the world. It has already started. And you cannot afford to stay behind.

Demystifying Power BI misconceptions – Last Part

In the last post here we demystified the first four claims:

  1. Missing Outliers in Scatter Charts
  2. DAX makes it difficult to answer easy questions
  3. Limited trends and no forecasting
  4. You can’t compare several categories

In this part of the Tableau series, we will go over the last 4 claims, and explain why Power BI is not falling short

Can’t customize or format tooltip (popup) content – The 5th Way Power BI Falls Short – Or Not

According to Tableau, you can’t customize the tooltips, and as a result, you may not see all the details in your data. Here is a screenshot from their website:

To learn about Power BI’s Tooltip customization capabilities go here. To ensure you can include essential information in tooltips, Microsoft has released an important functionality on last May, including the ability to customize the fields that are shown in the tooltip of ALL visual controls.  Simply drag any data measure into the Tooltip bucket in order for that field to be shown in the tooltip. You can then further customize the value by selecting an aggregation function or a Quick Calc. Read more here.

No offline work – The 6th Way Power BI Falls Short – Or Not

According to Tableau, you can’t download the report from the web for offline editing. Here is a screenshot from their website:

Let me reiterate Tableau’s claim in the screenshot above: “In Power BI, you can do some basic web editing, but you can’t download it to your desktop or work offline/on-premise for deeper analysis. You’re stuck starting from scratch and collaboration is stifled“.

That’s shocking!!!

“Help! Help! No offline iterations in Power BI… Oh, did I miss it? I hate those monthly updates”

Or not shocking at all…

Power BI can be downloaded offline. The claim above is simply inaccurate, or at least 8-month outdated. In October 2016 the Power BI team released the Download report feature (Learn more here), which allows you to download a copy of the report, perform offline changes, and publish the report again to the service when you are ready.

Download a report (.pbix)

Before you download the report, you can make extensive changes and edits to the visuals on the service, and download the .pbix file to perform further changes. The only limit is that two authors cannot work simultaneously on the report, and merge the changes. The last version will overwrite the previous one.

In addition to the ability to download the report – If your report doesn’t use Live Connection or Direct Query, the last refreshed data is included in the offline report. As a result, you can keep editing the report, add visuals, create new measures offline, and can literally stay disconnected from your cloud or on-premise data sources. So, next time you are on the plane, I recommend taking your .pbix file with you.

Storytelling – The 7th Way Power BI Falls Short – Or Not

According to Tableau, you can’t tell a narrative with the data in Power BI, leaving you with too many annotations and labels. Here is a screenshot from their website:

Looking for a narrative flow which is equivalent to Tableau’s Story Points? This is one of the biggest areas where the Power BI team has been investing in. In the next 3 months Microsoft will release amazing new capabilities, that will empower you to create endless stunning new storytelling experiences. The new features include Drill Through pages and the use of Bookmarks, which will allow you to create narrative flows in your reports.

The Drill Through feature allows you create exploration flows through different pages, while keeping your navigation and filter context as you walk through the narrative flow. With bookmarks, you can also create ad-hoc exploratory views, and can always go back to the previous steps. Read more here and watch this video from Microsoft Data Insight Summit to learn about all the new features that will be released in the coming months.

If you are not ready to wait for the new features, here are few great alternatives that prove that Power BI can help you create a narrative, even today!

Boost your Narrative with Scatter Charts

A great way to tell a story in Power BI is through the Play controls, which allow you to click the play button and animate your report. Imagine an invisible storyteller that slice and dice your data. This auto-pilot mode can help you to create great narratives, and show how the data is changing as the specific dimension is played. The typical use of the play controls is to apply dates, but you can apply any field and play the visuals through all its values.

As a starter, you can use the native Scatter Chart‘s Play Axis control (Learn more from one of the best blogs on Power BI here).

Scatter Chart Play Axis

Play Axis, Drill Down Player & Pulse Charts

A more generic tool, is the new Play Axis Custom Visual, which can be downloaded from Office Store here (In July 2017 update, you can add any custom visual directly from Power BI Desktop From Store button). The Play Axis is a great tool which can be used as an automated moving slicer, that will animate your entire page, and can make new narratives come to life.

Play Axis Custom Visual

For example, in this report I used the Play Axis to show all of Power BI Custom Visuals by release date (You can get this report here):

A new custom visual was introduced this week as part of Power BI Desktop July (2017) update – The Drilldown Player. Like its sibling, the Play Axis, you can use the Drilldown Player to animate your report through a narrative flow. But this time, the player can automate the drilldown narrative. Read more here.

Fresh of July 2017 Update – The Drill Down Player (Click on the image to read the original announcement)

Finally, the Pulse Chart custom visual allows you to create another compelling narrative in your line charts. Follow my blog post here to learn how to create dynamic events in Pulse Charts.

To conclude that Power BI is doing great in telling a story, you can visit Power BI Data Stories Gallery here, this is a community forum for Power BI users to share their narratives through Power BI.

You can’t ask What-if Questions – The 8th Way Power BI Falls Short – Or Not

According to Tableau, you can’t input data into Power BI, so you can’t answer “what-if” questions. Here is a screenshot from their website:

This claim is not 100% accurate. Report authors can create powerful What-If scenarios with DAX. You can follow this example where the user can select multiple numeric values to define thresholds for negative, neutral and positive sentiment scores. Based on the user’s selection, all the visuals in the report are affected, including the corresponding calculations.

While the current What-If scenarios require relatively moderate knowledge of DAX, in the next few months Power BI team will improve this capability and expose new user interfaces that help the report author to create What-If experiences.

Conclusions

In today’s blog post, we covered the last four of Tableau’s claims against Power BI. We demystified these claims, and reviewed the wide variety of (relatively new) features in Power BI that provide a great fight in areas where Tableau is presumably thought as the strongest.

In the next post of this series, we will transition from defense to offense, and will review the Power BI capabilities which make it a unique (and probably the best) Self-Service Modern BI solution.

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